Visio 2013 Connector Text Block Background Color

I recently switched from Visio 2010 to Visio 2013, and while I quite enjoy the fluidity of 2013’s UI, some of the changes have had me run in circles before finding the 2013 equivalent for 2010 features I already knew. Here’s one of them:

Working on a diagram of our DNS server setup I wanted to adjust the background color of the connector text block. There are many good tutorials on the web on how to accomplish the same in Visio 2010… but in Visio 2013 the “Format” context menu option is gone, and there’s “Format Shape” which opens the Format Shape sidebar which has no options to adjust the text block’s background color.

A text block with the default white background.

A text block with the default white background.

Finally after clicking around for some time I found the new hiding place of the Text Block options. Here’s how:

First left click on the connector to select it; the green and yellow selector indicators show up:

visio_connector_selected

Then click on the little symbol in the lower right corner of Home > Font, or Home > Paragraph area in the ribbon bar. This opens up the text dialog (with ‘Font’ or ‘Paragraph’ tab selected, depending on which area you clicked). Select the “Text Block” tab, and you’ll see “Text background” options:

visio_text_dialog

Now the earlier tutorials I mentioned apply. If you select “None” for the background, or set its Transparency to 100%, you’ll get an undesirable effect:

visio_transparent_textblock

The better option is to use some color picker tool like Nattyware’s free pixie (or one of many other alternatives) to sample the color surrounding the text block and then set the Solid color value to match (with Transparency set to 0%). Or, if you use standard colors in your diagram, select the same standard color for the text block background. Now it looks a lot better:

The little arrow symbols in the lower right corners of various Ribbon areas are good to get to know – lots of options hide behind them! For example, the arrow symbols in Design > Page Setup, or View > Visual Aids open dialogs to many everyday workflow options that are frequently needed.

Finally, couple of other Visio tips. A blog post Work Faster With Our Visio Keyboard Shortcuts by “Visio Guy” outlines the navigation shortcuts that also work with Visio 2013. Mastering and memorizing them makes Visio use a pleasure!

Another task that I frequently run into while using Visio is the need to replace an object, say, a square with another such as a diamond, for example. Visio does not allow you to do this natively. You’ll have to delete the object, reconnect all the connectors, etc. If you have many objects to replace, it translates to a lot of work. Then I found Paul Herber’s Super Utilities and Tools for Visio. Among its many features there is “Shape substitute” command that does exactly that – very handy!

LaserJet P2015dn duplexing on Windows 7

HP LaserJet P2015 models use “Universal” driver under Windows 7. When first installed, duplexing doesn’t work by default. This is a surprise for many who come from Windows XP environment where the dedicated drivers had P2015’s built-in duplexing availability turned on, of course, by default. In Windows 7, however, the duplexing selector for P2015 says by default: “Print on both sides (manually)”.

To enable P2012’s automatic duplexing on Windows 7 go to Devices and Printers, highlight the P2015, right click, and select Printer Properties from the context popup menu. Go to Device Settings tab and look for “Duplex Unit (for 2-Sided Printing)” option. It’s set to “Not Installed” by default. Change it to “Installed” and click on “OK”. Now when you go to Preferences when getting ready to print, the automatic (not “manually”) option is available on the Finishing tab, and automatic duplexing works.

Also if you use the excellent priPrinter utility, P2015 honors the “Double Sided” toggle on the Page Layout tab. Same goes for the “Double-sided” checkbox on FinePrint utility, and other applications that provide the option to turn automatic duplexing on or off.

Adding graphics, comments to PDFs

I needed to fill out a PDF document today, date it, and sign it. It took me a good hour to accomplish the task as while the latest incarnation of Acrobat has custom stamp feature, annotated text doesn’t print by default (I also wanted to avoid having to print out the document only to scan it back in). In fact, I found no way to print text annotations. Whether “Documents and Stamps” was selected in the Print properties or not, the text annotations would remain missing from the printout. It should not be this difficult to add a text box to a PDF document and then flatten it to be part of the document, and not an annotation per se.

After some more Googling later I happened on this page that outlines a simple way to add “flatten” options to the Acrobat document menu. The associated script to be placed in “Program Files/Adobe/Acrobat 9.0/Acrobat/Javascripts/” folder (the script works with older Acrobat versions, too, as the mentioned instructions are for Acrobat 7.0) is just two lines long:

With the above script installed, the task was a snap: I added my signature from a transparent PNG as a custom stamp, added the text annotations, and then flattened the document. Done! Now the annotations print out as they should (whether or not “Documents and Stamps” is selected in the Print properties as now the annotations are part of the ‘base’ document). I can’t imagine why Adobe doesn’t include “flatten” as a default feature!

End of C·O·M·O·D·O Firewall (only)

For few years now I’ve used the lightweight C·O·M·O·D·O firewall in conjunction with ESET nod32 AntiVirus. Both are lightweight and effective. Or were. ESET nod32 is still getting better with every consecutive release (the recently released 4.x, for instance, it lighter on system resources than its predecessor). But C·O·M·O·D·O just merged the “Personal Firewall” with their AntiVirus product hence effectively discontinuing the separate, lightweight and easy-to-configure firewall. Time to part ways — I’m not willing to use C·O·M·O·D·O’s A/V.

ZoneAlarm Pro may be the next good choice.

Dumping Schedule Wizard for VisualCron

For several years I’ve used Schedule Wizard scheduler for Windows Server task scheduling.  For a long time I haven’t been totally happy with its stability (or lack of).  During any given year there has generally been a handful of incidents where I notice the tasks haven’t been running, and often the problem could be traced back to Schedule Wizard. For example, forgetting to close the tray icon and the clip-board manager (if running) before installing an upgrade will result in a broken installation. It won’t tell it to you – it just won’t run. And when a new version has been properly installed, there’re often issues about getting the service stable again (so that it’ll actually execute the tasks on schedule).

After the most recent upgrade I could not get the service running again so that the tasks would be run. The service starts ok, but then nothing happens. I reinstalled half a dozen times, tried to run the service as the Local System, admin, and as a special user with sufficient privileges, to no avail. Tasks run fine using the interactive scheduler, but on a server that won’t do.

So once again I started to review the other possible schedulers out there. I had done this several times before, always returning to Schedule Wizard as, for example, I found AutoMate 7 too heavy and too expensive (I’m always dubious of software packages that don’t tell their price on the web site upfront, but instead ask you to “request for a quote” — it usually means that the software is overpriced and the sales people want to be able to talk you in buying it).  Automize, on the other hand, uses Java (not JavaScript) for task coding, and I don’t write Java well. Then there’s Robotask, which looks cool, but it doesn’t run natively as a service on Windows Servers (one could try to run it under FireDaemon or AlwaysUp, but I really think a scheduler should have a native service mode).  There’s of course WinCron but while I use cron (or bcron) with Unix, for some reason it feels out of place in Windows.

But on different passes at finding the windows task schedulers out in the wild I had missed two products: VisualCron and Macro Scheduler Pro.  Both are very clean, stable, moderately priced, and they just work! For most operations VisualCron is just perfect (running programs, external scripts, etc.) while Macro Scheduler Pro reminds a bit of AutoMate in that it’s “more than a scheduler” – the scheduling function is part of it, but overall it’s a workflow automation software.

FTP Client Update

Last fall I wrote about various (S)FTP(ES) clients, and in that article mentioned that secure authentication with popular open source FTP server pureFTPd did not work with VanDyke Software’s SecureFX FTP client as it lacks the option to use unencrypted data channel – a requirement with pureFTPd. VanDyke Software is now working on a version 6.3 that will introduce that option; the new version should see daylight (in production) sometime toward the end of this year.

On a related note, I’ve been recently using for (S)FTP(ES) connections the winner of my FTP client comparison in the fall, Ipswitch WS_FTP Pro.  Ipswitch just recently released the version 12 of the software.  A quick run-down between the SecureFX and WS_FTP Pro quickly reveals that WS_FTP Pro gives more fine-grained control over many operations, and that the GUI of the product is more up-to-date than that of SecureFX (see screen shots below). While the SecureFX interface is rather utilitarian and is in need of an update, it has the benefit of being able to share the session list with VanDyke’s excellent terminal/SSH client SecureCRT. So perhaps you won’t need the extra features/options of WS_FTP Pro, and find the singular session list handy, then SecureFX is certainly worth a look. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for the best FTP client, I’d be inclined to recommend WS_FTP Pro at this time. The price tags of the products likely reflect the differences in features and looks: SecureFTP is priced at $59.95 compared to the $89.95 price-tag of WS_FTP Pro.

SecureFX

Ipswitch WS_FTP Pro

Powerful clip-board macros with AutoHotKey & TextPipe Pro

I posted on the DataMystic forums (manufacturer of TextPipe Pro) a brief tutorial on how to create powerful clip-board macros with help of TextPipe Pro and the free hotkey utility, AutoHotKey – two utilities from my standard toolbox.

Clip-board macros with TextPipe and AutoHotKey